Maintaining the skin on your face is serious business. Between trying buzzy ingredients and making seasonal adjustments to your routine, there is a lot of personal effort made. Still, this doesn’t mean that expert care in the form of a facial is obsolete. Just as bi-annual dental appointments are necessary to maintain a healthy smile, professional skin care treatments provide a level of service that’s hard to replicate at home. However, unlike a standard teeth cleaning, there are several different types of facials to choose from, each providing its own set of results.
At the most basic level, a facial is highly beneficial to help remove dead cells, dirt, and debris laying on the surface. As Jess Bowers, a New York City-based celebrity and spiritual facialist, explains, it’s an important aid in the skin’s typical renewal process that occurs every 30 to 40 days. Selecting the ideal treatment will ultimately depend on your skin’s current needs. But with so many options on spa menus, understanding the difference between the various types will help streamline your decision.
Ahead, TZR tapped five skin experts to break down the basics of the most common types of facials you’ll encounter when booking an appointment.
Similar to a body massage, this treatment involves manually manipulating the skin, muscles, and tissues of the face to improve the overall health and appearance of your complexion. “It uses various techniques such as kneading, tapping, and stroking to stimulate blood circulation and can be performed using hands or special tools like facial rollers or Gua Sha stones,” says Ildi Pekar, celebrity esthetician and owner of Ildi Pekar Skin Care.
“There are 43 muscles on our face alone which can hold a lot of tension and produce small signs of aging like wrinkles,” says Magdaline Granados, a certified esthetician at SkinSpirit medical spa in Roseville, California. This particular facial helps bring blood flow to the surface, stimulate collagen production, and, most importantly, relaxes the muscles and de-puffs the skin for a sculpted result.
Put simply, this facial focuses on the lymphatic system to help detoxify the skin. “Using the hands, it gently massages the face in the direction of lymph flow to decrease puffiness and swelling,” says Bowers. The primary function of the system is to transport the fluid [lymph] throughout the body. However, as Pekar states, unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no pump and, instead relies on the relaxation and tightening of the muscles and joints to move the lymph.
The beauty of this massage is that it’s suitable for everyone, whether you're dealing with skin inflammation, acne, puffiness or just want to give your complexion a fresh, glowing appearance. Though Pekar often recommends this type of facial to those with sensitive or reactive skin types, as it can be particularly advantageous and is gentle on the skin.
According to Dr. Melanie Palm, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon at Art of Skin MD in San Diego, CA., microcurrent facials can up-regulate intracellular ATP, the energy driver of the skin, resulting in temporary lifting and toning effect. Pekar tells TZR, that treatment delivers tiny electrical impulses into the skin to stimulate the underlying muscles. “This leads to an improvement in muscle tone and encourages increased production of collagen and elastin, the two essential proteins responsible for your skin's elasticity and strength,” she adds.
While anyone can receive and benefit from a microcurrent facial, Dr. Palm notes that thanks to its ability to promote circulation, the treatment can be especially helpful for those who’ve had limited movement in areas treated with neurotoxin injections like Botox. “Microcurrent offers a subtle contouring effect, and though you could get it regularly I recommend saving this one for a big event, like a wedding or holiday party,” says Dr. Palm.
As a form of exfoliation, microdermabrasion facials work as a resurfacing treatment to remove dead cells. But that’s not the only benefit of this this popular treatment. Nicole Frontera, nurse practitioner and founder of Nicole Frontera Beauty in Queens, NY, says that microdermabrasion can also treat signs of aging, aid in fighting acne, brighten skin’s appearance, and improve tone and texture. The treatment works well on most skin types, but it shouldn’t be a frequent occurrence. “Once a month is suitable, and it should be followed with a moisturizing treatment to best maintain healthy skin,” says Frontera.
Chemical peels can also be a good option for reducing acne and discoloration from scarring, sun spots, or aging, as they work by exfoliating the uppermost damaged layers of the skin. “A peel uses a chemical solution, applied directly to the face, that causes the dead skin to slough off and eventually peel, giving you a glowing complexion and healthier-looking skin,” says Frontera.
With that in mind, Dr. Palm adds that they should be administered in a dermatologist’s office or by a licensed aesthetician. While most people can tolerate chemical peels, Dr. Palm suggests avoiding them if you have sensitive skin or a history of abnormal skin scarring, and being most cautious if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. “Steering clear of the sun and practicing good sun care habits is also essential during your after-peel healing period,” she says.
LED Light Therapy
LED facials use low-level light in different colors and wavelengths to treat a variety of skin concerns including inflammation, acne, and signs of aging. Each color emitted has a specific wavelength or frequency that is used to penetrate the skin at different depths to target issues. “For example, blue light is effective in treating conditions like acne, while red light is often used for its anti-aging,” says Pekar.
Frontera notes that aside from stimulating collagen production and revitalizing elastin, the technology also kills bacteria while increasing oxygen saturation within the tissues. While there are several at-home LED devices available, they don’t always have the efficacy of an in-office treatment. Despite being suitable for most skin types, Dr. Palm suggests taking caution if have photosensitivity disorders like melasma or an autoimmune disorder (such as lupus), as certain wavelengths of light can aggravate these conditions.
The HydraFacial is a specific treatment that has skyrocketed to fame in recent years thanks to its glowing results. As Frontera notes, “the unique service uses a distinct serum delivery system that deeply cleanses, exfoliates, and wipes away all those unwanted impurities and dead skin cells while infusing your skin with majorly good nutrients like peptides, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid.” She adds that while it can be tailored to your skin, it typically includes a gentle acid peel and deep extractions to boost overall radiance.
Choosing The Right Type Of Facial
Consulting with your dermatologist or licensed esthetician will provide you with further guidance on your selection. But as Frontera explains, your choice primarily depends on what concerns you’re looking to address, the severity of said concerns, and how the potential treatment fits into your lifestyle. “Some facials, like deeper chemical peels, will need more downtime and require limited sun exposure. While others, such as a sculpting or lymphatic treatment, can be done on a lunch break, leaving you free to go about your day after,” she explains.
In that vein, all of the experts agree that discontinued use of actives, especially retinoids and exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHAs, is crucial in the days leading up to your appointment. “I recommend removing them from your routine three to five days before to allow the skin time to reduce sensitivity during treatments,” says Granados.
This, as she notes, will ensure that your service goes smoothly. “Skin health is a journey towards aging gracefully and maintaining [a] detoxified [complexion], and facials — whether monthly or seasonal — are an important part of that journey.”